Women artists > Brenda Boylan draws an audience in Cuba
Brenda Boylan draws an audience in Cuba.

Women Artists in Today’s Plein Air Community > What does it mean to be a woman in plein air? Brenda Boylan shares her experiences in this article excerpt from PleinAir Magazine (April/May 2020).

Kelly Kane: A question often asked of working women in any field, but rarely of men, relates to the balance of work and home life — and the guilt that often accompanies that juggling act. But because it’s a common number one concern, let’s start there.

Brenda Boylan: Every year I write down my family, personal, and professional goals, and there have been a few times when they were not in sync. I had to make it clear to my spouse that I am not only a mother and wife, but a business owner who has big goals for us. That means that I clear each event or time-consuming project with him first so that schedules align and the kids are not neglected.

It has been great for him to take on the role of primary caregiver while I am competing so that he understands the challenges and rewards of being present for the kids. As for guilt, I view it as a natural emotion for anyone who has an ounce of compassion, so I just keep focused and disciplined.

Kane: A recent study in the Journal of Adolescent Research showed that while boys are socialized to see competition as fun, girls are conditioned from a young age to work together to reach their goals: “This reluctance to compete can have an impact on women’s career trajectories and eventual earning power.” How have you learned to embrace the competitive spirit needed to build a successful art career?

Boylan: While I was young, I thought the word competitive was synonymous with sports, and I don’t care for sports. I really didn’t think I was competitive at all until I submitted a painting to a local art show. It didn’t place, but it provided fuel to my growth process; I aimed to find out what the juror saw in each piece that did win.

I also learned to step away from believing each piece was precious. I allowed the failures to become examples of what not to do and redirected my sights on bettering my work — and that meant mileage with paint and panels.

Kane: What advice would you give a woman, or anyone for that matter, considering a career in art in terms of entering competitions?

Boylan: Entering competitions is a no-brainer! You must get your work out there. Having said that, enter only your very best work — and have it photographed by a professional who knows how to work with artwork.

Follow the rules and application directions to a T. If you don’t have any idea what to do, ask for help. Or then again, you might not be ready to compete.

Kane: Most agree that there’s an imbalance in the number of women invited to participate in most plein air events — averaging about 20 to 35 percent — but were split on whether you’ve seen progress in the time you’ve been competing. What should a woman expect from participating in plein air events?

Boylan: I recommend selecting events that have a good collector base, subject matter that you are comfortable painting, housing provided for extended and long-distance events, and are well organized.

Brenda Boylan, "Under & Over," 2019, oil, 9 x 12 in., Available from artist, Plein air
Brenda Boylan, “Under & Over,” 2019, oil, 9 x 12 in., Available from artist, Plein air

Kane: Is there anything that can be done to educate collectors about the value of work created by female artists, so that work of equal quality is equally compensated?

Boylan: Create or direct the discussion and make it known that there are many talented women artists. Name names. Create the buzz.

Kane: Now that you’ve achieved a level of success, what are you doing to pay it forward and use the platforms you have to lend support to other artists?

Boylan: I am currently mentoring a woman artist who has expressed her artistic goals with me. We share our time in my office as she assists me with organization and data entry while I share real-life solutions, advice, critiques, and business processes.

Kane: What is the best advice you’ve ever received for making it in this field?

Boylan: Don’t reveal every thought, and be selective with what you say (a very difficult thing for me to do).


In Brenda Boylan’s “Pastel FUNdamentals” workshop, she invites us into her art studio and shows us her private process from an idea to a finished, jaw-droppingly beautiful landscape.

If you’re like most artists, you admire the work of other artists and marvel at their ability to create such magic that you can’t look away.

Brenda will reveal her tricks. She’ll show you how the magic is done. You’ll soon be on your way to creating the same stunning effects, and people will be wondering how YOU do it! [Learn more about Pastel FUNdamentals here]

Related Article:

Women Artists: From Competition to Compensation, and Everything in Between


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– Online art conferences such as Plein Air Live
– New video workshops for artists
– Incredible art retreats
– Educational and fun art conventions, and much more.

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